“Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America” by Laila Lalami was an insightful but also heart-wrenching nonfiction commentary on immigration, race, assimilation, affluence, poverty and many other related social issues that plague modern-day America.
Ms. Lalami, the Arab-American, US citizen, author and professor at the University of California, Riverside recounts her days in America first as a student on a visa, and later naturalized as a citizen, and then later when that citizenship was called into question by the terrorist attacks on 9/11 by Muslims. She also detailed her horrors with the rise to power of Donald Trump, who ran an anti-immigration campaign that heralded “whiteness” against the perceived other as less than.
One term that she brings up in her book is “White Fragility,” which the Oxford Dictionary defines as discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice. The term is used to show an ignorance by white people of the inherent advantages they receive because of the color of their skin. That history in America has afforded the white majority some unfair benefit, while other races, specifically Black Americans who were refused citizenship because they were deemed “less than human” and even immigration policies over the years admitted more white people from European countries to preserve the majority.
This is an eye-opening book and its central themes are very important at this juncture in history. More and more details about our past seem to move to the forefront of our consciousness and will hopefully lead to changes in policy and perception so that we can truly enact lasting change for the next generation and beyond.